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Founding of the APTA

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Text from the original charter of the American Paddle Tennis Association. The charter was signed in November 1934.
Text from the original charter of the American Paddle Tennis Association. The charter was signed in November 1934.

Manursing Island Club of Rye, New York, was an early adopter of the game after a somewhat skeptical committee of two came to Scarsdale to try out the sport at the court on Old Army Road. After trying out the game, the discussion changed from whether to put in a court to how many. They made a decision to install two courts and two additional ones shortly after. Not long after, Manursing member John C. (Jack) Ten Eyck Jr., took the initiative in founding the American Platform Tennis Association (APTA)— first called the American Paddle Tennis Association. Initial members came from Fox Meadow, Manursing and Greenwich Field Clubs. Source: Adapted from Fessenden S. Blanchard, Platform Paddle Tennis, 1959 In November 1934, Ten Eyck called the inaugural meeting of the APTA in his office in New York City. Representatives of three clubs that had been pioneers in the establishment of platf[...]

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Origin of the name APTA

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Letter sent by APTA to 40 court owners seeking their opinions on court specifications and playing rules
Letter sent by APTA to 40 court owners seeking their opinions on court specifications and playing rules

The United States Paddle Tennis Association (USPTA) had abandoned the name American Paddle Tennis Association under which it was first organized in 19261 With the permission of the USPTA, the newly formed governing body for platform tennis adopted the former name of the USPTA. Blanchard latter regretted that they did not make a clearer distinction between the two games. Source: Adapted from Fessenden S. Blanchard, Paddle Tennis, 1944 Note 1: According to an article in Paddle World in Fall 1976 the date that the Rev Beal and Frank Contessa formed the APTA was 1922 - see Frank B Contessa

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Fessenden S. Blanchard becomes first APTA President (1934-1938)

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APTA letter to members of the Eastern Lawn Tennis Association explaining the benefits of the game
APTA letter to members of the Eastern Lawn Tennis Association explaining the benefits of the game

Blanchard, a co-inventor of the game along with James Cogswell, and one of the five co-founders of the American Paddle Tennis Association became the first President. Although Jack Ten Eyck Jr. had been the driver behind starting the APTA, it seemed sensible to have Blanchard take the lead, as he was a tireless promoter of the game he loved. Ten Eyck served as the APTA’s first Secretary. During his tenure on the APTA Board Blanchard also acted as Secretary (1935-1941), chief correspondent and publicist for the game. He authored two books on the game – Paddle Tennis (1944) and Platform Paddle Tennis (1959). Source: Adapted from Fessenden S. Blanchard, Paddle Tennis, 1944, and Platform Paddle Tennis, 1959

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The History of Platform Paddle Tennis appears on the front page of the Scarsdale Inquirer

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The article was in the March 1, 1935 edition and had been written by Fessenden S. Blanchard

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Inaugural National Championships held

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The 1935 Men’s Champions Clifford D. Couch and S. D. Kilmarx on the right and finalists J. N. Hynson and Charles O’Hearn.
The 1935 Men’s Champions Clifford D. Couch and S. D. Kilmarx on the right and finalists J. N. Hynson and Charles O’Hearn.

In 1935, the American Paddle Tennis Association started conducting a series of annual championship tournaments, held during January, February and March—the height of the season. Included for the first three years were Men’s and Women’s singles championships. But interest waned and singles were dropped in 1938. Blanchard claimed early on that paddle really was just a doubles game. Source: Fessenden S. Blanchard, Paddle Tennis, 1944 For the first five years, with one exception, teams from the Fox Meadow Tennis Club of Scarsdale dominated these tournaments, occupying both the winning and runner-up positions. By 1940, there were 17 member clubs in the APTA, most of which entered teams in the men's doubles. However, the experience and a large number of quality teams from the Scarsdale contingent kept them at the top of the heap. The one exception came in 1936 when a strong te[...]

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APTA works to grow the game

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Letter from APTA to Eastern Lawn Tennis Association promoting the game
Letter from APTA to Eastern Lawn Tennis Association promoting the game

On November 18, 1935, brochures were sent out to Eastern Lawn Tennis Association member clubs and to others potentially interested in the game. These had photos and a description of platform tennis; tournament records of the previous year; a diagram of the platform with measurements; rules and regulations; and required equipment. Principal activities of the Association: (1) Annual Reports (2) Answering inquiries about the game and helping individuals or clubs to get started (3) Planning and Conduct of National Championships (4) Establishment of rules and regulations and conducting investigations regarding possible improvements to the court, equipment, rules and regulations (5) Furnishing information about tournaments and results to stimulate publicity (6) Selling official plans and specifications for courts (7) Organizing exhibition matches (8) Providing leadership, in coo[...]

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Ardsley Country Club builds a court in response to APTA efforts to grow the game

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The Ardsley Country Club in Ardsley-on-Hudson, NY was one of the first clubs to build a court based on the APTA's grow the game initiative. Blanchard's Scrapbook included a picture of the court being used in 1935 although the caption was Ardsley Racquet and Swim Club which had by then merged with the Ardsley Club2, an informal offshoot of The Ardsley Casino1, that year to form The Ardsley Country Club. Interestingly the player in the dark sweater is very likely Stuart R. Stevenson3, an avid racquets player, who was the club's representative to the APTA. He was the grandson of one of the founder of the The Ardsley Casino in 1985, Amzi Lorenzo Barber "The Asphalt King", and his wife Julia. The courtIt was removed during WWII as the wood was rotting and could not be replaced due to lack of materials during the war. Note 1: The Ardsley Casino was created through the support of some of[...]

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Henry B Eaton develops inexpensive portable platform helping to grow the game

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From head to toe Killy Kilmarx and Kip Couch introduced a certain sartorial splendor to the game
From head to toe Killy Kilmarx and Kip Couch introduced a certain sartorial splendor to the game

Fox Meadow Tennis Club member and former FMTC President (1936) Henry B Eaton, designed a collapsible platform that could be laid on an existing tennis court during the off-tennis season without damaging it. Eaton talked the New York lumber company company he worked for and the the forerunner of the Gates Sports Platform Company, to make the Eaton portable platform. The court was easy to transport and set up and only cost about $500, which made it affordable even during the Depression. These easy to install and cheap platforms were invaluable in growing the game. Source: Adapted from Fessenden S. Blanchard, Platform Paddle Tennis, 1959 Historical Factoid: Eaton's wife, Jean Eaton, was the winner of the Women's Doubles and Singles Nationals in 1935 (the inaugural tournaments) and the Women's Doubles in 1936.

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The paddle evolves into the form used for almost the next four decades before innovations in the early 1970s; Jim Tate covers the history of the paddle through the early 1990s

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Original version. This was the version used by Jean Eaton in winning the inaugural Women's Singles and Doubles in 1935
Original version. This was the version used by Jean Eaton in winning the inaugural Women's Singles and Doubles in 1935

In the early stages of the game, players used the lightweight, solid, rectangular shaped paddle (The Paddle Tennis Company’s standard paddle), but it was too light for a fast game. At the request of the Old Army Athletes The Paddle Tennis Company1 modified the shape of the paddle to a more oval design and added holes (the Tennette paddle) but this also proved to be too light and the edges tended to chip as there was no protective rim. A perforated, oval, mahogany stained paddle with a metal binding around its edges proved to be the answer and was first introduced in the late 1930s. It became the standard for the next four decades despite several efforts by the APTA to investigate better alternatives. After the 1930s, the history of the paddle gets a little fuzzy. Apparently, the Reverend Frank Beal, who had invented playground paddle tennis, had a son who was living in the Scr[...]

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